Monitor Top Refrigerators

History of the General Electric Monitor Top Refrigerator

The most recognized of vintage refrigerators

The GE Monitor top refrigerator is perhaps the most recognized of vintage refrigerators. Built on the principal of a French industrialist concept for a hermetically sealed refrigeration system, the first models available to the general public, for residential use, were introduced in 1927. General Electric committed $18 million dollars to the manufacturing of these units and another million dollars to advertise them to the public.


The first affordable refrigerators

With a price tag of only $300, these first models were considered “the first affordable refrigeration units” for the average family. Many utility companies offered the GE Monitor Top refrigerator to their customers for as little as $10 a month, simply added to their monthly utility bill.

Although a few minor features were added along the way, such as enclosed condenser coils and slide out shelves, the basic design of the Monitor Top remained the same from 1927 until 1936. All of these models were cooled with one of two refrigerants used during this time, sulfur dioxide or methyl formate.


The single and multi-door Monitor Tops

The most popular model of the Monitor Top was the standard single door unit, offering the customer 5 to 7 cubic feet of food storage. In addition, GE did produce a larger two door and an even bigger three door unit.


 The “Globe Top” Monitor Top

In the early 1930’s, an altered version of the typical Monitor Top was introduced, known as a “Globe Top”. These units featured a round, “basketball like” top that housed the completely enclosed mechanical assembly. The idea was to offer the house keeper an easier to clean refrigerator. The unit was available in three sizes, the X-3, X-4, and X-5.

In late 1936, the new 1937 Monitor Top was unveiled. Known as the “Flat Top”, this new model featured a new smaller compressor with a condenser fan motor all mounted in the bottom of the cabinet. After World War II, General Electric “discontinued” the use of sulfur dioxide and methal formate and began using R-12, freon, a refrigerant that was widely accepted and used in most every refrigerator manufactured until 1993.


So how much is my Monitor Top worth?

Single door Monitor Tops, in good, working condition, are worth an average of $250 to $400 in “as is” condition. The rarer two door and three door units are worth what you are willing to pay for them. Completely restored single door models sell for $3400 to $3900, and (you guessed it!) restored two and three door models sell for what ever the buyer is willing to pay!


Hermetically sealed and permanently lubricated, the GE Monitor Top refrigerator remains the most recognized and most dependable refrigerator ever built. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these units remain in service today, offering their owners “quiet”, “dependable” and “service free” refrigeration.

Many of the Monitor Top cabinets were fitted with a foot pedal that would let you open the door with a touch of the foot. This came in really handy when you had just come from the hen house with your arms loaded with fresh eggs! Just a touch of your foot and the door popped open (usually busting your knee in the process). For this reason, we refer to this nifty contraption as a “knee buster”.